Fieldwork Plan

Recently, China is constantly held up as the pinnacle of modernization, with seemingly every story obsessing about technology, development, a new highrise or a new economic breakthrough. As wonderful as modern technology is, today’s modern China seems bent on glossing over almost four thousand years of rich cultural history. Although China’s official party line is dedicated to modernism, I still believe China holds the old ways dear to its heart. Hidden between the neon lights and the skyscrapers are Beijing’s hutongs, pockets of ancient culture still preserved relatively intact. In addition, Beijing’s world class museums have successfully preserved huge amounts of cultural artifacts, and many major temples and landmarks are remarkably well preserved.

I have always loved history and museums, and while there is not much room for either in my computer science studies, I think this summer’s study abroad in Beijing will provide the perfect opportunity for me to explore one of the longest cultural histories in the world firsthand. From what I have read about Beijings museums, they offer a unique perspective on the city’s rich history as China’s capital through multiple governments and dynasties.

However, the history of China is admittedly an overly broad topic to research, so to narrow it down, I would like to study either the history and workings of museums in Beijing, or whether modernism has conflicted with the museum’s goals. For the first topic, I would love to learn more about the inner workings of museums, and would hopefully be able to interview exhibit designers, renovators, archeologists, and similar and create a holistic picture of the work it takes to preserve history. For the second plan, I would like to explore conservation efforts throughout history, especially contrasting the absolute modernism of the Cultural revolution with ideal cultural conservation. More importantly, it would be very interesting to see exactly how modern China is working to preserve its own history, and how that conflicts with China’s rapid modernization. In addition, it would give me a wider variety of sites to perform research in.